Western Michigan upsets No. 24 Toledo to give NIU division
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) From 1-11 to a piece of a division title and the program's first victory against a ranked team, a lot has happened in the last three years for Western Michigan. The pinnacle came Friday.
Corey Davis caught two touchdown passes and Western Michigan upset No. 24 Toledo 35-30 to send Northern Illinois to the Mid-American Conference championship game.
The Rockets (9-2, 6-2) could have earned the MAC West title and a spot in the league title game, but the Broncos (7-5, 6-2) created a three-way tie for the division. NIU beat both Toledo and Western Michigan and will face Bowling Green on Dec. 4 at Ford Field in Detroit.
Western Michigan's victory against Toledo was its first ever against a ranked team.
''I'm so proud of them,'' third-year coach WMU coach P.J. Fleck said. ''Words can't describe it. A year and 10 weeks ago, we were the worst team in college football. Now we're MAC West champs.''
NIU opened the door for the Rockets to win the division outright by losing to Ohio on Tuesday. But the Rockets were undone by crucial penalties and one big turnover, helping Western Michigan pull away.
The game turned when Toledo's Alonzo Russell fumbled a punt to set up Davis' second touchdown, a 30-yard catch from Zach Terrell with 1:07 to play in the first half that gave the Broncos a 25-21 lead.
The Broncos would not relinquish the advantage, pushing their lead to two scores on a fourth-and-goal run from 1 yard out by Jamauri Bogan on the first drive of the second half.
Toledo moved to within eight late in the third on a 19-yard field goal by Jameson Vest. It appeared to have momentum on its side when quarterback Phillip Ely threw a 30-yard screen pass to Kareem Hunt to get the ball to the Western Michigan 19 with 11:55 to play, but a targeting call on Russell nullified the play.
''I don't know if we attacked as much as we needed to,'' Toledo head coach Matt Campbell said. ''We did some things that were uncharacteristic at times, and maybe that's coaching, maybe that's playing.''
Toledo eventually scored a touchdown to draw within five with 1:18 to play on a 35-yard pass from Ely to Jon'Vea Johnson, but the Rockets missed the two-point conversion and could not recover the onside kick.
Hunt ran for 139 yards and a touchdown and Ely threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
Tom Flacco, a freshman signal caller and the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, ran for a touchdown just 2:26 into the game and then ran for a 2-point conversion for Western Michigan.
The Broncos went 1-11 in their first season under Fleck.
''Coach said those who stay will be champions,'' Terrell said. ''This wasn't the whole thing that we wanted, but this was part of it. I'm just so happy for our team.''
Western Michigan safety Asantay Brown was taken from the stadium on a backboard after the helmet-to-helmet. School officials said Brown had feeling in his fingers and toes, but was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
''Whatever you believe in, if you believe in a higher power, just send some prayers this way because he needs them,'' Fleck said.